The Independent Westerner
Stick’s recent weekly article made me think of why we lack representation in a country where so many of us live. This is my opinion after living here for a number of years and how I see it thus far. This is from a US perspective, but I think is still applicable to other western nations.
From birth we are taught to go out to the world and make our mark. We must succeed and rise as far and as fast as we can during our working years to amass as much material wealth as possible. The American Dream, as it is called, is to get a good job, buy a house, raise a family, take vacations and keep going until it is time to retire. Nothing should stand in our way and competition is the key to success, therefore we need to always do better at our job and surpass all of our co-workers by any means necessary. In that I mean we need the awards and recognition to reach each higher station as we move up the ladder and be first among our peers.
There is nothing wrong with this concept, but it does limit our ability to want or desire the ones around us to succeed before us. As long as we succeed first, then we can help others, but no way in hell will I help promote someone over me. I have bills, I have a family, I have my needs to be met and this is just the way it is normally. There are exceptions to every rule and people do not ALL act in this manner, but this is the general concept that is embedded within our culture.
In general, I am easy going and when I first came to Thailand I naturally thought others may have the same type of attitude. We are far away from home and there should be a natural tendency to “stick together” (no pun intended Stick). But, oh how I was wrong. The types of people I have met used to shock me, but now it’s just another day in Thailand. On the one hand, you have business owners that have been successful and I applaud them for this, but if I am not a business owner, then why am I talking to them? This is the sense I get like a class issue. Then, you got the large portion of teachers, who have their own issues of being married and struggling to bar hopping and struggling. Next you got a retired class that usually have a young wife in tow and just want to complain how things have changed believing first that a 25+ year age gap was a match made in heaven. I don’t have any issue with who you choose to spend your life with, but the complaints fall on deaf ears. After this you got a class of just wretched people, who will lie, scam, cheat and do anything under the sun to stay here and continue whatever “shit” lifestyle they have created. There are many other groups I have in mind, but I think I have made my point. One last group I will mention is a group of people who just want to be left alone and not bothered by anyone else. They found whatever it is they are looking for and are happy to be where they are and do what they do with no issues.
Now let me switch gears a moment and talk about foreigners coming to the US. Their vision of travelling and staying in the “land of opportunity” is vastly different then so many that have come here to Thailand. They are not going to the US to just “get by” or trying to teach their language so they can stay and, of course, they are not heading for any type of P4P scene. They are going to the US to be successful with a desire to work as hard as possible, in general, so that they can help support a family somewhere else and eventually get their family to come stay with them. This is a complete opposite of the typical resident here or why they came to Thailand.
They come from a dependent culture with no safety net for the elderly and are taught from birth that their job is to take care of their parents and family as is their responsibility. The reason I bring this up is that many people are unaware of how they network in the US. South Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians, Asians, etc. have networks when they arrive. We have many jokes about the number who own liquor stores or 7-11s, but most have no idea how they came up with the capital to purchase these businesses. Many of them have their own private network financing that goes in simplistic terms like this:
– They arrive in the US sponsored by someone or by some other means with a plan to start a business.
– They arrive with pre-contact information and are given most of thing things they need to get up and running (this includes paperwork, liquor license, free lawyer contacts, etc.)
– The network provides the capital with the idea that after some minimum years they will pay back to a general fund the amount they used which is in turn used to support another. Most do pay it back as their nationalistic pride encourages them to have others succeed.
This is super basic, but just making the point that they already have an established network that allows for a greater success after they arrive.
Now contrast that with the westerners here. If I want any legal advice, for example, I better pay up and seek the all-knowing counsel of people running some type of legal service here otherwise I will be mislead supposedly. If I want to marry a local, I can search the internet for information, but I am told “You better go PAY for the service”. We do not network here and provide each other with services to benefit the whole. We are independent and could, in all reality, give a fxxk whether someone succeeds or fails. Though, not surprisingly, we bask in the misfortunes of others so often it is nice to hear the rare story of someone being happy that another person succeeded. I recall having a conversation with someone recently where I commented that “I really hope he succeeds” only to have the response “Why? He is such a dick!” The mindset with so many westerners here is ridiculous. I cannot wish success on someone unless they are the Pope?
This may sound disgruntled or pessimistic, but it’s the reality of our situation here as a whole. The few altruistic people that try to benefit or help others just get burned over and over until they just give up. Also, too many come here escaping their past life, many with good reason, but not to be the most successful entrepreneur, but to leave all the past ‘shit” behind. We, as westerners, have a completely different mindset when we step off the plane compared to the foreigners heading to a western nation.
I recall Stick making a comment in a submission or one of his weekly articles about how many true friends he would actually call “friends” and it was less than the number of fingers on one hand. This is after all the years of being here and all of his encounters throughout this amount of time.
My point is that, with so much negativity that so many encounter and no real networks (unless you pay), with such diversity of the reasons to live here, with all of our independence baggage that we bring with us, with our desire to normally see people fail if we are not succeeding (misery loves company), I would again ask who or what would want to represent us? We would need a complete cultural shift in mindset that could bring many of us together with a common goal to have more westerners succeed here, even if we were not succeeding ourselves, provide real services for free and just go forth with the mindset that we want to make a better place for all of us, no matter the sacrifice, and then we might have a chance to have some commonality to have representation.
I do not mean to harp on the legal services people provide as a business, but is just an example of our cultural mindset that our knowledge should be paid for no matter the cost. Whenever Stick shows a picture of some “down and out” westerner on the street our first response is “Loser!” not, like my wife would say, “Is there a way to help him?” This is the reality we live in and in ideological terms it may be viewed as uncaring or sad, but it’s just the result of being from an independent culture.
The last thing I will say is that too many of us come here for our own leisure time. For many of us our focus is specifically on what is the minimum we need to make to enjoy our time here doing whatever it is we do. This is my category for sure, but it does prevent the idea that somehow we want to spend our leisure time banding together trying to improve things for others. This is where I think most are and until this shifts, we probably will not see any true representation of the masses here.
Take care gang,